Coronavirus: Some restaurants not reopening after phase one

Vianney Massot Restaurant has shuttered for good. PHOTO: VIANNEY MASSOT RESTAURANT

SINGAPORE - Vianney Massot Restaurant is the first Michelin-starred restaurant here to fall victim to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fine-dining French restaurant in Hongkong Street, which received its star last year, has shuttered for good. It was offering takeaway and delivery in April when dine-in was banned.

Its owners declined to comment on the closure.

The restaurant is named after its chef Vianney Massot, who came to Singapore in 2017 to head the kitchen at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Resorts World Sentosa.

After that restaurant closed in mid-2018, the Frenchman joined the restaurant at Hongkong Street, which was then named Bacchanalia. It was rebranded in March last year.

A slew of other food and beverage establishments have also announced that they will not be reopening when dine-in is allowed again in phase two of Singapore's reopening.

Among them is Tao Seafood, a Thai-Teochew restaurant at Asia Square which closed its doors on May 31.

Owner Adrian Lee said his lease was ending on June 30 and decided in February to give up the six-year-old business because of manpower shortage and rising costs.

He said: "It is getting increasingly difficult to meet the local manpower quotas. Our main chefs and service staff are getting old and it is difficult to replace them with younger local talent, who are less interested in joining a traditional Chinese F&B outlet.

"Also, rising costs and lower expenditures by the corporate sector in the last two years make the future of the restaurant appear dimmer by the day."

Business during that period dropped by about 30 per cent, he said. The Covid-19 pandemic drove the nail into the coffin, with revenue from takeaways and deliveries during the circuit breaker making up only 15 to 20 per cent of what the restaurant used to make.

And prospects for the restaurant, located in the Central Business District, do not look good even when dine-in is allowed again.

Mr Lee said: "With safe distancing and working from home as the new normal, we will be put under even greater pressure, especially as large gatherings in Chinese restaurants will not be possible.

"We can expect the distance between customers to increase by 50 per cent, but rents won't drop by 50 per cent."

Mr Lee will now focus on running fUnRiceSG, a casual rice bowl concept which is also at Asia Square and which serves a few of Tao's signature dishes such as pot-roasted prawns with glass noodles.

The Fabulous Baker Boy, a cafe in River Valley Road known for its cakes, will also not be back. It ceased operations on April 21 when F&B outlets in parks were told to close.

The cafe, which opened in 2012, was located in the former River Valley Swimming Pool at the foot of Fort Canning Hill.

Owner Juwanda Hassim, who was also the chef and baker, said: "We were told just the day before we had to close."

He said he had been doing well before with delivery orders.

Like Mr Lee, his decision to close had been made before the circuit breaker - except that he had intended to move to bigger premises when his lease runs out in July.

But his plans were scuppered by the pandemic.

He said: "It has been impossible to look for a new space as I can't do any viewings. I can only talk to real estate agents. And the future is uncertain."

Casual Vietnamese eatery SG Pho House in North Bridge Road bade farewell to its customers on its Facebook page on May 7 and thanked them for their support.

Salt Grill & Sky Bar, which sat at the top of Ion Orchard, has also confirmed that it is permanently closed.

The first Jamie's Italian outlet in Singapore, at VivoCity, shut on April 16 when its lease ran out.

But its other outlet, at Forum The Shopping Mall, is still operating and offers delivery, takeaway and drive-through pick-up options during this period.

Meanwhile, Ding Dong, a modern Asian restaurant by the Spa Esprit Group, faces an uncertain future.

Owner Cynthia Chua said it may be sold to an international hotel group. But if the deal does not go through, she will close it down.

The eatery, which was known for its colourful decor, opened in Ann Siang Hill in 2013 and moved to Amoy Street four years ago.

It is not goodbye forever for some, though. The Fabulous Baker Boy will be back, but Mr Juwanda added it "won't be resurfacing anytime soon... probably at the end of the year".

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